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Course Introduction

"Introduction to Humanities/Special Theory" and its Foundation (The 1st Division)

The "General Humanities" Perspective: A Voyage Without End

The Graduate School of Language and Society (GENSHA) is an independent graduate school with no undergraduate department. However, since Hitotsubashi University does not have a Department of Humanities, faculty members of the GENSHA are responsible for a considerable portion of the role that the Faculty of Letters usually plays in "cultural education." Most teachers more or less offer classes for undergraduate students; those lectures, seminars, language classes, etc. can serve as a very meaningful opportunity for graduate students. When an individual wants to interact with something completely different from their own specialization, attending undergraduate classes may serve as a particularly useful introduction.

While it is important for any academic discipline to take advantage of every opportunity and expand its capacity, it is even more important in the humanities. Graduate school is, of course, a place to cultivate "advanced expertise" so that "advanced experts" can understand the true significance of their knowledge; for example, students with an exceedingly deep knowledge of the position of the secretary of Ancient Egypt's 22nd Dynasty must not only understand how this knowledge aligns with the 21st and 23rd Egyptian Dynasties, but they must also be aware of the many other civilizations that have put more or less emphasis on the "secretaries" of ancient Egyptian genealogy. Eventually, it must also be understood how and where this knowledge is positioned amidst the total knowledge of all written human history.

Although it seems paradoxical, in order to understand the significance of one's own research and to share it with others, it is necessary to understand the broad amount of knowledge outside of one's own field of research. This is particularly noticeable in the humanities, as the field is comprised of the two Japanese characters "person" and "pattern," referring to the comprehensive network of human activities in this world. Even in Da Vinci's time, it would have been extremely difficult to know everything. In the present day, with an ever increasing amount of information and an exponential increase in the speed of information sharing, it would be difficult for anyone to have a full understanding of this network. Even if one were to look closely into a variety of fields, the experience is meaningless if the intention is to interact only in a shallow sense, making "glancing touches" or taking "small tastes"; on the other hand, there have been circumstances where the "holistic" attitude itself has been characterized as an ethical evil, as shown in the history of the post-war humanities. However, having a true holistic view is quite different from labeling what one does not truly understand at a glance, or discussing it in a condescending manner. It is rather the case that truly acquiring an overall view of things is superior to looking at things "from above," that is, from a myopic and self-righteous point of view.

In addition to learning about various fields, it is also important to be familiar with various approaches. Everyone wants to believe that their approach is the best, and depending on the field, there are "royal roads" where it is stipulated that "a certain approach should be applied to obtain a certain objective." However, there is no such thing as an absolutely superior methodology, a method that can be used forever, or a research subject that is valued above all others at all times. Although it may exist, centuries have not yet passed since the methodologies regarded as the standard for modern research, methods, or "style of thesis construction" were established; thus, it is impossible to see what the future will be. This immeasurableness is the real opponent of the humanities.

Is the study of the humanities of absolute academic value, or is its value relative? By constantly asking ourselves these questions, and continuing to humbly assess the value of our own work, we will expand the capacity and framework of the world known as academia, and develop our position in relation to others in it. Given that this is the duty required of the humanities, the GENSHA works constantly to carry out these goals.

The 1st division, which consists of only 16 full-time faculty members, is tied together under the banner of the "general humanities" and attempts to embody this spirit. Every year, at least 1 of the 16 instructors will be absent due to business trips overseas, and the 1st division will quickly be reduced to 15; despite its small scale, however, in terms of the arrangement of the courses—the fields listed, the approaches, the guidance policies in which each faculty member specializes—the program would hold its own, even when compared to a large-scale graduate school course. Even though the research building itself is small, between the roof and the foundation exists an endless space. It is in this space where one may encounter new questions and concerns, creating an enduring sense of exploration.

Omnibus Lecture Course: "Introduction to Humanities / Special Theory"

In order to make use of the diversity of fields and approaches (and in turn, the relationship amongst colleagues), as of 2017, the GENSHA has established an undergraduate liberal arts class called the "Introduction to Humanities." As its name suggests, it is an omnibus lecture aimed at the "introduction" of "humanities"; however, it is not a course attempting to engage students on topics such as "What are the humanities?" Rather, it focuses on individual topics as chosen by each instructor in charge; it is aimed at encouraging students to enjoy their first taste of the humanities, and graduate students are not eligible for the course itself. Instead, another class, titled "Special Interest Humanities," has been set up for graduate students. If graduate students take this "advanced course" following the "introduction course," they may earn university credit. Although it is difficult to interact with the research subjects and lessons of all 16 faculty members during the 2-year Master's program, or even in the 3-year doctoral program, this "Introduction to Humanities/Special Theory" class provides an enjoyable opportunity.

A total of 5 fields have been prepared for "Introduction to Humanities/Special Theory": "Literature," "Human Sciences (art)," "Historical Science," "Philosophy / Thought," and "Comprehensive Studies," with two sessions scheduled per year. In 2017, two courses were constructed: "Introduction to Humanities (Literature)" and "Introduction to Humanities (Human Sciences)," each of which had 4 full-time faculty members collaborating in relay lectures. The outline and line-up for this year will be briefly introduced in the syllabus below (while each member's summary theme has been included with reference to the syllabus and actual lectures, the authors of this article will not include them without express permission).

For details, see the syllabus (the syllabus can be accessed without an account).